Five-term Democratic Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) faces a tough primary challenge, spearheaded by the Atlanta Journal Constitution and backed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Both have targeted McKinney for her refusal to join the stampede in support of Israel’s war against Palestine and its people.

Their hand-picked candidate is Denise Majette, an African-American former judge and life-long Republican who suffered a mid-life conversion in time to challenge McKinney in the Aug. 20 Democratic primary. Majette’s biggest financial backer is the non-union Atlanta-based hardware-lumber giant, Home Depot.

The Rev. James Orange, a former leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Council and now an AFL-CIO field representative, calls McKinney “one of the greatest members of Congress. … I wish we had a hundred like her.”

In a telephone interview from Atlanta he told the World “The Republicans tried and failed to defeat her in four general elections. So now they’re going to try to do it in the primary election with a ‘Democrat’ and they’re going to fail again.”

Orange said, “People understand the issues and can read between the lines of the Journal Constitution.”

McKinney has drawn wide respect for her 100 percent pro-labor voting record, her strong defense of civil rights and liberties, and her courage in speaking out where others remain silent.

“You don’t have to guess where she stands on the issues, she’ll tell you,” Atlanta Labor Council president Charles Flemming told the World. “She’s been one who speaks for those who have no voice. Union members will not turn their back on someone who supports workers. We never have any trouble getting volunteers to work in her campaign.”

Flemming said the Journal Constitution gave McKinney “heat” for her stand on Middle East issues. “But they give her just as much heat for her stand on issues affecting union families. Remember, this is a right-to-work (for less) state with a state minimum wage of $3.35 an hour.”

Elise Cohen, a leader of Atlanta’s American Friends Service Committee, told the World, “She brings a consciousness of foreign policy to the discussion when too many are silent because of fear. Unfortunately, the temper of the times – and the confusion around Middle East issues – makes it easier for otherwise well-meaning people to be swept into the anti-McKinney campaign.”

Georgia State AFL-CIO President Richard Ray, interviewed the day after a Labor 2002 election rally in Atlanta, said, “Georgia has been targeted by both sides. Due to redistricting, we’ve picked up two additional seats where we stand a good chance of electing friendly candidates. If we do that we will have done our part toward changing control of the House of Representatives.” He said the national AFL-CIO would be assigning additional resources to Georgia and that McKinney’s re-election would be “at the top of our list of priorities.”

Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun magazine, told the World he is proud to be associated with McKinney, saying she is “a courageous voice of progressive Americans. Her critique of Israeli policy is balanced and objective and could be called both pro-Israel and pro-Palestine and that is not a contradiction in terms.” Lerner said he had discussed McKinney’s race in an e-mail to 20,000 Tikkun affiliates.

Lois Swartz, of Philadelphia’s Bubbes and Zaydes for Peace in the Middle East, said, “Cynthia McKinney supports Israel’s right to exist and so do I. The ACLU gives her 100 percent, women’s groups give her 100 percent, she’s with the unions. She’s a good candidate.” The group plans to send individual donations to McKinney and will ask others to do the same.

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Fred Gaboury
Fred Gaboury

Fred Gaboury was a member of the Editorial Board of the print edition of  People’s Weekly World/Nuestro Mundo and wrote frequently on economic, labor and political issues. Gaboury died in 2004. Here is a small selection of Fred’s significant writings: Eight days in May Birmingham and the struggle for civil rights; Remembering the Rev. James Orange; Memphis 1968: We remember; June 19, 1953: The murder of the Rosenbergs; World Bank and International Monetary Fund strangle economies of Third World countries